Christmas Day staffing failure costs Gauteng Health R17m

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GautengA mother who gave birth to a premature baby because unskilled nursing staff and doctors were on duty on Christmas Day seven years ago will receive R17m. According to a Pretoria News report, the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria), ordered the office of the Gauteng MEC for Health to pay the money to little Hope’s mother Janet Anderson.

Hope was born a quadriplegic, suffering from cerebral palsy. The report says the money will be kept in a trust account and used to try to make life a little easier for Hope, who is now 7. It is stated in court papers that this friendly and ever smiling little girl will never be able to take care of herself for the rest of her life. She cannot walk, talk or eat by herself. She has to eat soft food she is barely able to swallow.

The report says her condition is ascribed to the negligence of the nursing staff at the Leratong Hospital in Krugersdorp. It was claimed they never bothered to monitor the foetus or the mother before birth. There was also no after birth care. Anderson was in labour at the time, although it was two months before the due date. The nursing staff told her she was a long way from delivering the baby.

But Hope was born late on Christmas evening. At birth she did not make a sound, she could not suckle and she was blue around the mouth. The report says the child was never placed in an incubator or sent to a neonatal ward. Instead, mother and child were discharged the following day. While the 22-year-old Anderson hoped for a Christmas gift in little Hope, it became evident that the child suffered mentally and physically due to the non-existent or substandard care mother and child received at the hospital.

Anderson said in court papers that on 25 December, 2011, she was 32 weeks pregnant. She experienced lower abdominal pains and after visiting a nearby clinic in Randfontein where she lived, she was taken to the Leratong Hospital. Although the nursing staff told her she was definitely not in labour, Hope was born a few hours later. The mother recalled that the child did not make a sound during or after birth and she struggled to breathe. She also experienced seizures. In spite of this the baby was handed to her and they were discharged the next day. Anderson said she was not told that something was wrong with her baby.

The report says Hope’s grandmother noticed that something was wrong and she told her daughter to return the baby to the hospital. Hope stayed in hospital for a few weeks, but by then the damage was already done. Her condition occurred as a result of the negligence of the hospital, as there were not sufficiently trained or qualified medical practitioners and nurses to treat pregnant mothers who go into premature labour, counsel for Anderson argued.

It was said that the MEC failed to ensure that this hospital was properly equipped to enable proper monitoring and treatment of premature infants. The court was told that the doctors and nurses should have at least acted when the child did not cry at birth and had difficulty breathing.

The report says doctors who recently assessed her, said little Hope was a friendly, smiling child who tried her best, despite all the odds. Apart from all her other problems, she is also visually impaired. The doctors agreed that it will be a long and difficult road for this little girl to learn to do the basics, such as to swallow her food.

The bulk of the R17m pay-out will go towards her medical expenses and aids to make life a little easier. Up to now, the unemployed mother had to mostly carry the child on her back when she had to be transported.

Pretoria News report

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